Primary Source Document Collections
Access to primary source document collections for studying history is one of the most exciting online opportunities.
K-12 students heretofore would not be able to peruse first-hand accounts, old news articles, maps and so much more without visiting real major archive collections in person.
Calisphere is the University of California's free public gateway to a world of primary sources. More than 200,000 digitized items — including photographs, documents, newspaper pages, political cartoons, works of art, diaries, transcribed oral histories, advertising, and other unique cultural artifacts — reveal the diverse history and culture of California and its role in national and world history.
Maintained by the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, this site indexes thousands of resources by country, era and topics. Need medical documents from World War One or a list of influential San Franciscans over the years, this is your resource.
The Making of America at the University of Michigan is fascinating, because it ends with the turn of the 19th century. Prints and other such documents, heretofore in private stacks, have been placed online.
Don Mabry's Historical Text Archive is one of the largest and best-cataloged collections.
Explore the world of Elizabethan England. Includes information on...
- Life At Court
- Sumptuary Laws
- Treason Trial
- Book of Orders And Rules
On example of the use of source documents is with Sumptuary laws. In Elizabethan England, these laws attempted to restrict the sumptuousness of dress in order to curb extravagance, protect fortunes, and make clear the necessary and appropriate distinctions between levels of society. An instance where viewing one document ("show me") can have more impact than a 1/2 hour lecture ("tell me").
NARA, the U.S. National Archives and Record Administration,now called just Archives, has just begun to display its holdings, almost all of which cannot be found elsewhere. For starters look at the collection of WWII posters and often-cited but not in full documents like the Emancipation Proclamation and the Japanese Surrender at the end of WWII. Information about the relocation of many Japanese in the United States can also be found by visiting the Smithsonian site.
The official site for the U.S. Supreme Court includes slip opinions that are released on the day that a case is decided, volumes of all of the Court's published opinions since October 1991, and oral argument and briefing schedules for current cases. While text is still the mainstay of the Court, the technology is used for its in-depth and daily update capacities.
Famous Trials looks at everything from the trial of Socrates (399 B.C.) to Susan B. Anthony (1873) to the Nuremberg Trials (1945-49)and the recent Zimmerman ("Trayvon Shooting") Trial (2013).
Each trial includes multiple documents, including items like a Chronology, newspaper articles, transcripts, exhibits and images to make these precedent-setting events come alive.
Our Documents is a collaboration among many archive agencies to provide wider access to key U.S. History expressions of turning points. Often, texts include excerpts of these primary sources but students will gain greater understandings if they can read the entire document. Graphical documents, such as the Great Seal and Edison's patent of the electric light bulb, are included in addition to the more familiar treaties. The scope also reflects the "whole" United States, such as the Hawaiian annexation, child labor and Chinese exclusion and creation of Japanese internment camps, act. Students can view aerial photographs of missiles in Cuba. Whatever the topic, the "original" can be included!
Best History Sites, in addition to the above features, is frequently updated so that historical resources, not typically accessible, are handy. For instance, background resources about Iraq, a topic not often taught in school, have been posted.
For a comparison between British and U.S. views of historical events look at Spartacus.
Children of Chinese immigrants, housed at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, are collecting memoirs so that slice of history will be preserved.
This website connects Annenberg's award-winning, comprehensive curriculum on the Constitution and its amendments to daily civics news and student discussion. Their nonpartisan writers sift through national and local news daily and select current events expressly for social studies classrooms.
And at least once a week, they write an article on a portion of this news with links to our multimedia curriculum. Use these "Speak Outs" in your class or have students interact online in a moderated, national dialogue with their peers.
EDC has prepared lessons for students to scrutinize historical photographs for acquiring interpretation skills. The selection is interesting and varied.
The Digital History Reader is a content- and inquiry-based for teaching European and American history with illustrative, multi-media downloads.
Historical Thinking Matters is a collaboration between the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and Stanford University's History Education group. The resources can be used flexibly and creatively.The site has 5 inquiries, among which is the Scopes Trial and Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Boycott.Each site poses a central question. Short movies, timelines, relevant text references, contrasting views, and primary source documents with analyses. Students can also maintain an interactive notebook with additional resources and guiding questions. Teacher materials and strategies with lesson plans and student work samples.
Lyrical Legacy helps teachers explore eighteen American songs and poems from the digital collections of the Library of Congress. Each song and poem is represented by an original primary source document, along with historical background information and, in many cases, sound recordings and alternate versions.
Annotated with teaching guides encourage the use of embedded social media features for collaborative learning.
The Teachers' resources section at the Library of Congress includes resources like this for Professional Development.
The topics covered in this on-line module include:
- Inquiry Overview
- Primary Sources and Inquiry
- Inquiry in Action
and takes about 1 hour to complete.
In some cases, completing this module counts as one hour of staff development.
A list of the over 200 on-line collections maintained by the Library of Congress. You and your students can view maps & photographs; read letters, diaries & newspapers; hear personal accounts of events; listen to sound recordings & watch historic films.
Started as a study of the Cambodian Genocide , the Genocide Studies Program at Yale University explores what happened, why, and its aftereffects. Their research includes modern day events in Cambodia, Rwanda, and East Timor, as well as more historical events like the Nazi Holocaust, the genocides in Bosnia and Darfur, and on colonial and indigenous genocides.
The site includes a wide range of audio/video clips, bibliographies, databases, journal articles, maps and satellite images.
Not always an easy subject, but one that needs to be explored lest it happen again.
Unfortunately, using search engines to locate this type of information can return a million sites of varying quality.
Taking advantage of these well-cataloged sites and specialized databases will be far more efficient and valuable.
The Chicago History Museum hosts an extensive collection of classroom resources covering curriculum for grades 1 through 12. The site includes both online and downloadable activities. Lesson plans span a variety of topics and meet a range of state learning standards.
This site focuses on Chicago and Illinois history. Check with museums near you to see what resources they have available on-line.